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From role fulfilment to relationship - the courage to trust the invisible



"But he spoke to them: Because of your small faith. For truly, I tell you: If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move,' and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you." (Mt 17:20-21)

"For this reason, having also heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you and to remember you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation so that you may know him. 18 And he give you the eyes of your heart enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which you have been called by him, how great is the glory of his inheritance in the saints, 19 and how exceeding great is his power over us who believe by the working of his mighty power." (Ephesians 1:15 ff)

"Then you will rejoice, who now for a little while, if it is necessary, are afflicted by many tribulations, 7 that your faith may be tried and found to be much more precious than perishable gold, which is refined by the fire, for praise, glory and honour, when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 You have not seen him, and yet you love him; and now you believe in him, although you do not see him; but you will rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 when you obtain the goal of your faith, which is the salvation of souls." "(1 Peter 1:6 ff)


My dear friends,


Many years ago I went to Ireland.


It was my dream.


I had always wanted to go to Ireland, to see the lush green meadows, to breathe in the timelessness of this small, unassuming island.


And now - I was there.


We were in a small independent hostel that offered us the chance to work for bed and breakfast instead of paying - on a small side street, O'Connell Street in Dublin.


The owner looked contentedly at the window cleaning I was doing and said, "Hey, take a break. Come and talk to these people in the self-catering kitchen. Do you want some tea?" And with a grin he said:


"I like you Germans. Always reliable. Always disciplined. When you're given a job, you're conscientious. But don't forget the joy."


"But don't forget the joy."


I think many people in many different countries see Germans in exactly the same way.


Disciplined to the point of grumpiness. Hard-working. Obedient. Dependable. They're called the German virtues, the Prussian virtues, and they're drilled into us from an early age. Cleanliness, order, diligence, punctuality. It is very difficult for us to accept tea before the window has been cleaned. And it's even harder for us when someone gives us something: "I can't accept that. You shouldn't have done that." And in the back of our minds, we're already thinking about how best to return the gift.


Job fulfilment. Living up to expectations. Being disciplined. Fulfilling our role to the best of our ability and getting results.


We're so caught up in this role, in this cultural identity, that we're actually a people who forget joy - or when, like starving people, we grab at the little bits of leisure and freedom - somewhere between "Ah, well, I will do it" and "I'll just treat myself to this" - with an abundance of guilt.


A few years ago I was in the Harz Mountains.


I walked with my oldest and dearest friend through forests and castles, and in the evening in the hotel we talked, because the reconciliation that Jesus gave came after 16 years of total radio silence.

She can't do anything with my being a Christian, but with me- an insurmountable combination for her.- She struggled with it, as one struggles when one finds the person in front of you trustworthy, but does not want to acknowledge Jesus, who has become the meaning of life and the source of one's best friend.


And so she blurted out, "The Bible is a fairy tale story, Bille! So you have devoted yourself to the God of love, yes, I understand that, a good choice. But why do you need Jesus?" She is baptised, confessional baptised, and I don't know what has come between her and Jesus. Intolerance of other Christians? Perfectionism? Harshness? Incompatibility with her own deeply sincere, ethical values? I suspect so, and it saddens me to no end.


"But don't forget the joy!"


The point is, she's not that wrong.


If we really want to enter into a relationship with Jesus, the entrance is not in the printed words of the Bible, but - like in a fairy tale - between the lines. What is needed is faith.


C.S. Lewis, in The Chronicles of Narnia, chose the image of the wardrobe. The cupboard that will not open to a closed, hardened, analytic heart.


When we read the Bible, we must be able to believe, to wonder, to be open. We must believe, however absurd it may seem, that this book contains a mirror of reality, of life itself. We must believe that this book comes alive in our hands. And we must assume that, as in a fairy tale, as in an epic, as in a novel, the meaning, the moral, lies behind the words, between the lines.


And so it is with our relationship with Jesus.


How easy is it for us to believe in his reality? Isn't it a bit like the boy who thinks he's a cowboy because he's wearing a costume? Isn't it a little like the sense of eternity that comes over us when we look out at sea from the Cliffs of Moher?


Yes, it's not real, it's not tangible. It is not something we can wrap up in role fulfilment, and the invisible, the unpredictable, frightens us because it cannot be controlled.


It may still be easy for us to understand the rules and laws. It may still be easy for us to analyse soberly. To accept something without accepting it as real. "Well then, streams of living water will flow from me. If Jesus says yes, then it is so". But it does not become perceptible that way.


It is easier to see spiritual gifts as an explanatory model for personal strengths, not as an invisible weaving and working, as something that is actually there. It's easier to cast on the apostles everything we don't understand.


But... the longing remains.


We have all had the knowledge that somewhere an invisible barrier separates us from wonder and amazement, from thinking that everything is possible. We were children once who could lose ourselves in other realities, who had not yet pushed away wonder and amazement, who still thought that invisible friends and another world behind the world were possible.


And it is a painful longing, a call that echoes within us - telling us that there is more, that the truth is different than a sober world of machines, of mathematics and physics, of achievement and conflict.


It is the call back to the presence of God.


When we enter into a real relationship with Jesus, we have to face the accusation that we have made our lives dependent on a book. Yes, that is what it looks like from the outside. We are making our lives dependent on a book, a cupboard.


A book that is not even scientifically authentic, that has apparent contradictions, that has been used for power and abuse in many ways.


When we enter into a real relationship with Jesus, we have to face the accusation of trusting in something we cannot see. To believe in Jesus, to really trust him, is to lie down in the air and assume that we can fly. It means no longer being able to fully trust our own perception. When God is near, when the Holy Spirit is leading us and can guide, direct and change the life around us, then our own security collapses and we dance on the tightrope without a net or a double bottom.


  • What if it isn't true?


  • What if it's all in my head?


  • How can I expect to be no more or less than Moses to God?


  • How can I expect God to answer my prayers?


  • How can I believe that God wants to interact with me, with me personally?


  • He who created all this, with me, who am a tiny atom on a blue planet in the middle of an infinite cosmos?



Yes, it takes courage to really engage with God and to bring forth what is most deeply wounded in us: Trust. Trust not to fall. Trust not to be deceived. Trust not to be mad when we think that he is not an idea, but real, tangible, reliable, the invisible friend.


But the truth is: it is His hand that reaches out to us, and whether we take it or not is our choice. Do we have the courage to leave our supposed safety? Do we have the courage to trust him, trembling and afraid and desperate enough to walk across that rickety suspension bridge to him?


Yes, it is scary. We are more secure in discipline, in role fulfilment, in what we can grasp. It takes such, such courage to give space to his quiet voice, not to dismiss him as a crank. And he asks us to go against all the principles we know. He draws us to himself, intervenes in our lives, turns us around, changes us.


The point is: experiencing God's reality is joy. It is warmth. It is awe. It is exultation. Nothing will ever be the same again.


And the fear will never go away - the fear of being wrong. The fear that the mountains won't go away. The fear of being wrong.


But with every proof of faithfulness, with every stunned laugh, with every step on the water, we grow closer to him. And our hearts become alive, radiant, joyful,


until we say like Peter:


"If it is you, Lord, say come!"


Again and again.


And if it is Him, the 'come!' of your Creator will echo inexorably within you, and you will go. For nothing else will matter.


  • Do you believe that He hears your prayers?


  • Do you believe He answers you?


  • Do you believe He sees you?


  • Do you believe that He wants to be close to you?


  • Do you think He wants to lead you like David, Moses, Jeremiah or Gideon?


Or is he a distant God?


What the Bible says is true.


But it's not the laws. It is not the rules of behaviour.


It is the supernatural peace, the true inner joy. It is reverence. It is the talking donkey and it is the fish with the coin in its mouth. It is liveliness and love. It is the spirit that makes you alive.


And He never, never lets you fall.


What madness to trust in that. You can't! Can you?


But don't forget the joy. Its worth it.



Be blessed,


Sibylle/Daughter of Zion.

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